Surprises from girls regional finals


A couple of surprises in the IHSA girls basketball tournament, but were they really?

The most momentous was Rockford Lutheran suffocating No. 2-ranked Orangeville in a 1A regional final. Everyone expected to see the 30-3 Broncos advance to the sectional to take on No. 1 in the state, Galena.

Instead, Lutheran kept Orangeville star big girl Whitney Sullivan from being a factor and held the team to 5-for-37 shooting through the first three quarters in the decisive win. When you can't get off shots, it is going to be a long night for you.

That was the key to Lutheran shutting down the Broncos. 

The NUIC got plenty of praise with Galena, Orangeville, Aquin and Pecatonica among the elite in 1A. However, let's not forget about the BNC, which has champion Byron (21-8), Stillman Valley (29-4), Dixon (25-6) and the aforementioned Lutheran, who finished in fourth place.

So, it shouldn't be a surprise that Lutheran, who is used to playing 2A and 3A teams, had its ways with Orangeville. Now, the question is, can they beat Galena?

Byron ran into a similar situation in a regional loss to Woodstock Marian. Though conference champs and seeded higher than Marian, the 27-4 Hurricanes were no slouch, coming in with 12 straight wins.

None-the-less, it was a excellent campaign for the Tigers after losing key personnel to graduation and injury. With all the youth that got playing time, they will be among the elite in 2A next year. Some height would help, though.

I don't have records in front of me, but I wonder when the last time teams from the same school both won the BNC titles? Not only that, but the 8-1 Byron boys were one loss away from joining the girls as undefeated champs.

Lots of excitement continuing this week with both the boys and girls tournaments going on.

I plan to be back from Utah in time to watch Stillman Valley girls have a possible rematch with Alleman in the sectional final. If that happens, can SV do what Lutheran did to Orangeville on defense?

That is what killed the Cardinals in the previous loss in the finals of the Dixon Holiday tourney — hot shooting by Alleman. 

As I write this, the sectional hasn't started, but both teams are favored to be there. Likewise, with boys regionals. Would like to give some commentary, but don't know who won and who lost yet.

Instead, here is a bit of high-school basketball trivia regarding the state finals:

Back in the 1960s and 70s, a town would occasionally dribble its way to Champaign, as in actually dribbling a basketball there. It was a rare occurrence, but did happen.

For example, Buda had a basketball powerhouse in the mid 70s. With it literally being the only excitement in the tiny village near I-80, a plan was hatched to have townspeople form a relay and dribble a ball from each tournament stop along the way to Assembly Hall. First was to the regional at Peru, next the sectional at Wenona and then the super-sectional at Pontiac. Finally, it was on to Champaign for a total of 177 miles dribbling a basketball.

The usual format was to have a support vehicle in the form of a camper follow whoever was dribbling. I recall another instance elsewhere where a couple students from a high school dribbled all the way to Champaign, though not nearly as far.

It's important to remember the hold the IHSA tournament had all over the state and the cultural significance of it from the 1940s to 70s. It was in the 1980s that interest began to wane.

Nowadays, you probably couldn't get anyone to dribble a basketball across county lines. But, people don't swallow goldfish or cram themselves into phone booths anymore.

At the state wrestling tournament, Rochelle was the only Ogle County team to have medalists, with two Hubs making the podium in 2A. 

When I used to report on wrestling for 15 or so schools in the Sauk Valley newspaper coverage area, there were always plenty of kids placing. It was non-stop action keeping up with everyone and that was with two reporters.

In maybe its smallest showing ever, the only placers were three wrestlers from Sterling Newman. Probably like other sports, wrestling is cyclical and it will rise again.

The big story in 1A was the dominance of Woodstock Marian, with seven medalists, including 157-pound freshman state champ Jimmy Mastny, who lives outside of Oregon.

Though private-school Marian wasn't a fan favorite downstate, especially by people from Coal City, the Oregon contingent present to see three of its own wrestlers compete cheered on Mastny. 

In that same 157-pound bracket, Hawk senior Anthony Bauer, one of the hardest-working kids downstate, missed placing by one spot.

Andy Colbert is a longtime Ogle County resident with years of experience covering sports and more for multiple area publications.